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Neuroscience. 2010 Mar 17;166(2):391-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.12.033. Epub 2009 Dec 22.

Pitx3-deficient aphakia mice display unique behavioral responses to psychostimulant and antipsychotic drugs.

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Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.


The dorsal (A9) and ventral striatum (A10) of the midbrain mediate many of the effects of psychoactive drugs that alter emotion, cognition, and motor activity within the contexts of therapy or abuse. Although transgenic and knockout technologies have enabled development of genetic models to dissect contributions of specific dopamine (DA) receptor subtypes to psychoactive drug effects, few models exist that can distinguish contributions of A9 versus A10 circuits. Pitx3 is a transcription factor enriched in DA neurons. Aphakia (ak) mice deficient in Pitx3 show selective loss of nigrostriatal DA, while other DA pathways are relatively spared, and therefore could be a useful tool for investigating the role of this subclass of DA projections. We investigated the effects of stimulants amphetamine, apomorphine, and MK-801 and the antipsychotic drug haloperidol on behavior in ak mice. Whereas wild-type mice showed the characteristic locomotor hyperactivity in response to amphetamine (5 mg/kg) and apomorphine (4 mg/kg), these drugs caused a paradoxical suppression of locomotor hyperactivity in ak mice. MK-801 (0.2 mg/kg) induced hyperactivity was maintained in both wt and ak mice. Additionally, mutant but not wild-type mice were insensitive to the cataleptic effects of haloperidol (1 mg/kg). These studies indicate that the nigrostriatal DA circuit plays a critical role in maintaining normal responsiveness to psychotropic drugs that either stimulate or block DA neurotransmission. We propose that ak mice may represent a valuable genetic model not only to study Parkinson's disease, but also to dissect the pathophysiologic and pharmacotherapuetic mechanisms of other DA-mediated disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, drug abuse and schizophrenia.

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